How to Defeat Populism?
I read an article this week on National Review with the same title and I decided to comment on what I think is the number one treat to democracy now: Populism.
This terrible plague that once dominated the world before and during the WWII is now back. Reminds me of a stubborn disease, like the yellow fever, that you think you eradicated in the 20's but comes back every now and then.
In the article, they suggest four strategies to defeat populism, and that is exactly what we are going to talk today: How to defeat someone who defends populism.
1. Passive resistance: Wait for populism to fall on its face.
According to the article, you may not wait long because technocratic liberalism did such a great job stigmatizing populist ideas that they are now mainly low-status cretins. But I don't agree.
Populist ideas are stronger than ever. We've seen it happen in the past two decades in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and now, in a different form spreading trow-out Europe, in France and Italy. Their ideas are not only stronger, but their followers are dummies and more alienated.
Instead of waiting for populism to fall on its face, and eventually, it will, I suggest we crush it in the beginning. That's because even though their ideas will agonize in its own failure, the results to the economy and the country could be catastrophic. Take Brazil and Venezuela as examples, two promising countries in the first decade of the century, that now are struggling with social and economic crises, and even worse, democratic and institutional crises.
2. Triangulation: Take the criticism to heart and take some of populists’ issues on board.
This is a strategy I can agree with. It's based on adjusting liberalism in order to save it. In other words, you can compromise with populism to a certain degree, in the name of preserving democracy.
Perhaps you find the immigration strategy in Europe inefficient, but you can at least accept them as being the result of the democratic process. You don't have to agree with illegal immigration, and the importation of hundreds of thousands of people to Europe, but you can at some extent admit that people living in dangerous and war zones are entitled if persecuted to seek asylum in Europe. As a great democratic Union, we oath to defend this principle.
This compromise and shift of ideas are not actually a change in our principles, and at the same time may get some populists on your side. Try using their arguments in our favor.
3. Brinksmanship: Assimilate the worst features of populism in order to defeat it.
Finally, this is the best and my personal favorite tactics. The article said "you could determine that the stakes are existential and dig in for a ferocious battle. If you believe that populism and nationalism will, if unimpeded, vitiate your democracy, destroy your freedom to express your views, fill your society with an irrational fear of foreigners, and make your country an authoritarian nightmare, you could . . . opt to do all those nasty things on behalf of liberalism."
That means to use their own weapons against them. If you don’t like the democratic verdict? Ignore it like they do. Or delegitimize it. Think the populists are leveraging digital platforms to advance their agenda? Make legal-sounding threats until Silicon Valley transforms itself into the de facto speech police and ministry of propaganda for the liberal order. Make memes celebrating them.